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ESB sale is “worst kind of short-sighted policy” – Ó Caoláin

20 September, 2011 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described the sale of part of the State’s stake in the ESB as “the worst kind of short-sighted policy that will come back to haunt our society and our economy in the years ahead”.

Speaking in support of a Sinn Féin Dáil motion opposing the privatisation and calling for investment in jobs and growth, which is being debated in the Dáil this week, Ó Caoláin said:

“The sound investment made when the ESB was established and developed has paid off handsomely over the decades. Throughout the current economic and financial crisis the ESB’s investment in infrastructure has remained high, unlike Eircom, which continues to be dogged by under-investment following its privatisation.

“We know who benefited from the fiasco that was the Eircom privatisation – the likes of Tony O’Reilly and other privateers who creamed off profits and dividends. And at what cost to Ireland?

“This State, which should be a world leader in communications infrastructure, now lags behind other EU and OECD states in terms of broadband availability per capita.

“The Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government is committed to target up to €2 billion in sales of so-called ‘non-strategic’ State assets drawing from the recommendations of the McCarthy Review Group. This is not based on any sound economic strategy. On the contrary, it represents another step in the downgrading of our economy and a further limiting of the potential of the State to help create jobs and to bring about economic growth and recovery.

“These semi-State companies should not be privatised in part or in whole because they can play a vital role in delivering employment activation measures and training.” ENDS

Full text:

Sinn Féin Private Members Business
No privatisation of ESB
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


This is one of the most important motions to be put before the Dáil in recent years. The decision to sell off a stake in the ESB is totally wrong. It is the first step towards privatisation of this and other key strategic State assets at the diktat of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

The disastrous IMF/ECB deal so cravenly accepted by the Fianna Fáil/Green Government is now the equivalent of the old British regime at Dublin Castle, warping the Irish economy and impoverishing the Irish people for the benefit of outside interests.

It cannot be said often enough that the last General Election saw one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated against the Irish people. They rejected the Fianna Fáil/Green wreckers of the economy and gave a strong mandate to the Fine Gael and Labour parties who had been highly critical of the IMF/ECB deal.

That deal was clearly rejected by the people and armed with that mandate the new Fine Gael/Labour Government should have gone back to the IMF and the ECB and said that we cannot pay and we won’t pay, that the austerity regime is not working and that we must invest in jobs and growth instead of paying off bank bondholders.

Instead, what did Fine Gael and Labour do? They bowed the knee to the IMF and the ECB, they took up the axe left down by Fianna Fáil and the Greens and continued the savage cuts.

Tá na páirtithe sa Rialtas seo tar éis dallamullóg a chur ar an bpobal. Vótáil siad ar son polasaí amháin ach tá polasaí eile ar fad á chur i bhfeidhm anois.

Minister Deenihan has proposed to take over the Bank of Ireland in College Green, the old Irish Parliament. This is indeed ironic given the fact that the members of that Ascendancy Parliament sold it out in return for bribes from the British Government - just as the political establishment in this State sold what was left of our economic sovereignty to the IMF and the ECB, surely the greatest sell-out since the Act of Union.
Now State companies are up for grabs, with large chunks to be sold off. It is the worst kind of short-sighted policy and will come back to haunt our society and our economy in the years ahead.

I wonder what joker came up with the name ‘New ERA’ for the body to be set up to act as the agent for the sale of State assets? It started as a Fine Gael policy document in November 2009 and promised then to create 105,000 new jobs. What has happened to that promise?

At least Fine Gael stated clearly in that plan its intention to sell off State assets. It was otherwise with the Labour Party which before the General Election said it was committed to state enterprises and pledged that it would use commercial state companies as a key part of economic recovery. It said it was opposed to privatisation.

Now this Fine Gael and Labour Party Government are to set up New ERA as a non statutory body within the NTMA and it will take responsibility for the management and disposal of commercial semi states from Government departments. New ERA will also decide on dividends paid out to the State, pay levels and pension fund policies. The Government claims that any monies raised will be used for investment and job creation but we know very well that the EU/IMF Programme wants the monies to be used to pay down the debt.

As our motion states, the ESB is self-financing, has paid €1.2 billion in dividends over the last nine years and contributed €2.2 billion to the Irish economy through purchases from Irish suppliers, taxes, rates, wages and dividends in 2010.

The company is of long-term strategic importance to the State’s energy supply, in providing skilled employment, training opportunities and a variety of energy and telecommunications services and could play an extended role in the area of telecommunications by using its existing networks to address the State’s broadband deficit. We reject the Government's decision to sell off a stake in the company to private interests.

Let it not be forgotten that the ESB, like other strategic State companies, was built up when wealthy private interests were unwilling to invest in the building and development of infrastructure in this country. They preferred to invest their money abroad, just as this Government is now sending billions out of the country to pay the gambling debts of bank bondholders.
When self-government for 26 of the 32 Counties was achieved successive governments built up strong State-owned companies. The ESB, Aer Lingus, our telecommunications infrastructure, Bord na Móna and others were strategic pillars of the economy. Of course these companies must be equipped to adapt to change but what is not acceptable is the ideology which dictates that the people of this State, through their government, cannot retain any of these in public ownership, or cannot even assist them out of public funds.

The sound investment made when the ESB was established and developed has paid off handsomely over the decades. Throughout the current economic and financial crisis the ESB’s investment in infrastructure has remained high, unlike Eircom, which continues to be dogged by under-investment following its privatisation.

We know who benefited from the fiasco that was the Eircom privatisation – the likes of Tony O’Reilly and other privateers who creamed off profits and dividends. And at what cost to Ireland?

This State, which should be a world leader in communications infrastructure, now lags behind other EU and OECD states in terms of broadband availability per capita.

The Fine Gael/Labour Programme for Government is committed to target up to €2 billion in sales of so-called ‘non-strategic’ State assets drawing from the recommendations of the McCarthy Review Group. This is not based on any sound economic strategy. On the contrary, it represents another step in the downgrading of our economy and a further limiting of the potential of the State to help create jobs and to bring about economic growth and recovery.

These semi-State companies should not be privatised in part or in whole because they can play a vital role in delivering employment activation measures and training.

Over the last ten years the ESB and Bord Gáis alone have paid out nearly €2 billion in dividends. It is economic madness to start selling off these vital national assets in whole or in part. The Government defends this by asserting that this is only a partial sale of a stake in the ESB. But once the rot begins where will it end?

Molaim an rún seo do na Teachtaí uile. Iarraimíd ar an Rialtas gan dul ar aghaidh leis an díol seo agus an Bórd Soláthar Leictreachais a choinneáil go hiomlán i seilbh mhuintir na hÉireann.

ENDS

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